Search giant Google on Thursday acknowledged that its third-party contractors are recording and secretly listening to conversations customers have with their Google voice-activated device after a new report from Dutch news outlet VRT NWS disclosed the findings.
Responding in its blog to the VRT expose, Google said it shared recordings with experts who "understand the nuances and accents" of specific languages to make its speaker more accurate.
In response to the report, Google says that these contractors listen to 0.2% of all recordings and that user accounts aren't associated with the recordings.
"Even audio recorded as part of normal voice assistant usage may allow individuals to be identified and reveal sensitive personal or professional information", he said.
Google has previously disclosed that it hires language experts to listen to recordings, and it defended the practice in today's blog post.
"Google employees are eavesdropping, even in your living room", reads the story from VRT NWS, which documents how human language reviewers listen to the voice commands made to Google Home smart speakers in order to improve the technology's speech-recognition capabilities for various languages.
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The Belgian journos wrote yesterday: "In these recordings we could clearly hear addresses and other sensitive information". The ones replacing these are Voice assistant types of hardware that can help you edit your shopping list, remind you of the events you have to attend, and make your life more comfortable overall.
The leak, however, goes against Google's privacy policies and the company promises to investigate and take action. There were also recordings from when the assistant was accidentally triggered. Recordings made with Google Assistant, the smartphone app, are of telephone quality.
According to the report, Google acknowledged that it works with subcontractors to transcribe conversations, which is meant to improve its speech technology (speech recognition automatically generates scripts, and the subcontractor then double checks for accuracy, correcting where necessary).
A person who works for a Google subcontractor has revealed that thousands of employees all over the globe can access a secret feature of the company's free online too Crowdsource, which contains audio excerpts. "You can turn off storing audio data to your Google account completely, or choose to auto-delete data after every 3 months or 18 months".
"We hold ourselves to high standards of privacy and security in product development, and hold our partners to these same standards", Google said. "We have a number of protections in place to prevent false accepts from occurring in your home", he added without elaborating.